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Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 755-773, 201 1 



Ernesto Bozzano: 

An Italian Spiritualist and Psychical Researcher 

Luca Gasperini 

choylifut / 985@alice. it 

Submitted: 2/17/2011; Accepted: 4/11/2011 

Abstract — Ernesto Bozzano (1862-1943) was a luminary in psychical and 
spiritualistic studies in Italy, to which he contributed numerous publications 
that were also distributed abroad, and for more than forty years he tirelessly 
defended "human survival after death" against its critics. This article, after a 
brief look at the studies dedicated to him. furnishes a profile of the life and 
thinking of Bozzano, paying particular attention to the events that brought 
him to the eyes of the international community of psychical researchers. 

Keywords: Ernesto Bozzano — Italian psychical research — spiritualism — 
survival research 


Ernesto Bozzano (1862-1943) was probably the most important Italian 
representative of psychical and spiritualistic studies before the 1940s, as 
well as one of the few to emerge on the international scene, thanks to his 
numerous publications which gained him the esteem of scientists, philosophers, 
and psychical researchers. He was at the center of an intense network of 
correspondence with Italian, European, and American intellectuals, receiving 
an average of 200 letters a month, and was furthermore one of the few Italian 
scholars to have been named an honorary member of the Society for Psychical 
Research (SPR), the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR), and the 
Institut Metapsychique International (IM1). Despite the fact that the academic 
historian Bruno Di Porto (1933) wrote a description of him for the Dizionario 
Biografico degli Italiani (Di Porto), 1 an element which testifies to his relevance, 
Bozzano is completely unknown in Italy to those who do not deal with the 
history of psychical research. However, this did not prevent Italian scholars 
from continuing to remember him (e.g., Biondi, 1988, Inardi & Ianuzzo, 1981, 
Macaluso, 1972, Orlandi, 1971) or his works from continuing to be reprinted, 
even recently, in journals or by specialized publishers (e.g., Bozzano, 1948a, 



Luca Gasperini 

1957a, 1967a, 1972, 1975, 1982, 1998a, 2001, 2008). Still cited in France (e.g., 
Clauzure, 1983, Dumas, 1973), Bozzano does not appear in some important 
historical accounts of Anglo-Saxon psychical research (e.g., Beloff, 1993, 
Inglis, 1977) but does appear in the bibliographies of various authors of the 
same linguistic group (e.g., Stevenson, 1977, Van de Castle, 1977). Only 
beginning in 1982-1983, coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of his death, 
did some historians of psychical research begin to study him in more depth 
(Biondi, 1984, lannuzzo, 1982, 1983a, 1983b, Ravaldini, 1983). From this 
renewed interest, there were only two critical volumes regarding Bozzano 
taken as a whole (lannuzzo, 1983b, Ravaldini, 1993a), and some more recent 
articles that examine specific aspects of his biography or works (Alvarado, 
1986, 1989, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, Biondi, 2010, Caratelli, 1998, Cellina, 
1993, Cugnaschi, 2002). 

In addition, there are the first biographical articles written by his disciple 
Gastone De Boni (1908-1986) (the main ones being De Boni, 1941, 1946, 
1947). There are also some autobiographical articles written by Bozzano 
in his old age, which are usable with reservations (Bozzano, 1924c, 1930a, 
1938a, 1939). For a more in-depth study, it is however indispensable to refer 
to unpublished primary sources, among which the correspondence between 
Bozzano and De Boni is indispensable for reconstructing his life. 2 

The present article has, as its objective, a brief presentation of the life, 
works, and thinking of Ernesto Bozzano. 

Biographical Profile 

Ernesto Bozzano was bom in Genoa on January 9, 1 862, the fourth son of a 
lower-middle-class Genoese family, but we know very little of his childhood, 
in reality of his entire life up to 1928; by his own admission, that part of his life 
was without relevant biographical events, so much so that the only information 
conserved regards his intellectual life. He had an early vocation for study for 
which he received no support since, when he was fourteen years old, he was 
taken out of school in order to begin a commercial career. Other than this brief 
experience of work in his youth and a similar brief journalistic collaboration 
with the Genoese daily newspaper II Secolo XIX around 1 893, of which there 
is no trace, he never needed to work. Since he lived with his brother Vittorio 
(I860-?), and was in part economically supported by his well-to-do brother 
Adolfo (1859-?) and probably had a small income sufficient to maintain a 
secluded lifestyle, Bozzano was able to dedicate all his time to studying and 
writing. In fact, he managed to study by himself, dedicating himself first to 
poetry and literature, then to the sciences, and finally to philosophy, his great 
passion. He became a supporter of positivism and a fervent follower of the 
British philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) who, in the 1880s, was 

Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher 


his habitual correspondent together with William James (1842-1910), Alfred 
Russel Wallace (1823-1913), Theodule Ribot (1839-1916), Jean-Marie Guyau 
(1854-1888), and Henri Bergson (1859-1941) (Letter from Savona, 7 May 
1941, unpublished, in Bozzano & De Boni, 1930-1943). 

The biographical and autobiographical articles present Bozzano’s interest 
in spiritualism and psychical research as a philosophical and rational conversion 
from materialism (a total negation of phenomena) todemolition ofhis misoneism 
and, finally, to spiritualism (e.g.. De Boni, 1941:14 and on), but numerous 
other data do not correspond to these facts. On the basis of lannuzzo’s studies 
(1983b) and mine, it is much more probable that Bozzano was already inclined 
toward spiritualism in 1890 and that his presumed conversion, completed in 
1 893, was, in reality, reached after three years of psychical and spiritualistic 
readings, but, above all, after three years of going to a mediumistic Genoese 
club whose culminating event had been the apparition ofhis dead mother in a 
seance in July 1 893. 

Independently of the problem of this conversion, what is certain is that, 
until 1943, Bozzano never stopped dedicating himself to psychical research, 
or metapsichica ( metapsychique or metapsychical research) as it was called in 
continental Europe, understood as a single science capable of demonstrating the 
existence of the spirit and its survival after bodily death as opposed to religion, 
which was too dogmatic, and official science, which was too materialistic. 
Bozzano’s methodological approach was specific and comparable to that of 
an eighteenth-century naturalist; he did not carry out experiments or directly 
gather testimony because he did not feel the necessity of proving the existence 
of the psychic, but he summarized the accounts of the phenomena present in the 
literature (which he patiently classified during his entire life) as immediately 
valid natural phenomena, and he inserted them into an inductive process based 
on comparative analysis and convergence of proofs; in other words, he pointed 
out all the likenesses of a certain class of phenomena and reached specific 
conclusions. Therefore, his monographs were created in order to 

collect an adequate number of events . . ., carefully selected from the point of 
view of their authenticity as facts, in order to then classify, analyze and com- 
pare them, and deduce the laws which govern them.” (Bozzano. 1972:228) 

The monograph Dei Fenomeni di "Bilocazione” ( The Phenomena of 
“ Bilocation ”) (Bozzano, 1934) can furnish a concrete cross-section of his 
procedural method. In this monograph, Bozzano held that the phenomena of 
bilocation “assume decisive importance for the experimental demonstration 
of the existence and survival of the human spirit” (Bozzano, 1934:7) since 
it would prove that, in the somatic body, an etheric body exists, capable of 
making oneself autonomous, often carrying along with itself consciousness, 


Luca Gasperini 

memory, identity, and its own other supernormal faculties, thus ending up 
with independence of the spirit from the body and subordination of the brain 
to the mind. He reached this conclusion after having analyzed four categories 
of phenomena. The first included the cases of sensitivity in amputees and 
hemiplegics; discarding the neurological explanations, Bozzano believed he 
was dealing with the initial levels of bilocation. In the second, we find the cases 
in which a subject would see his own double; although accepting the possible 
pathological explanation with reserve, for Bozzano these cases represented, as 
a general rule, the second level of incipient bilocation, the transition between 
being both inside and outside one’s own body. In the third group, he placed all 
the cases in which consciousness would be completely transferred to the etheric 
double which verified the sensation of seeing reality from a position external to 
one’s own physical body. Finally, in the fourth group, there were the cases in 
which the etheric double was seen by one or more people. Considering all the 
categories cumulatively and taking the cases of this last group as crucial proof 
of their intersubjectivity, Bozzano thought he had scientifically deduced some 
conclusions from some facts that were evident for him but which were often 
not “self-evident facts” but rather an “interpretation of the cases he considered” 
(Alvarado, 2005:228). In any case, in order to understand his methods, a 
quotation from his work can be useful: 

As soon as the processes of comparative analysis are applied to hundreds 
of similar episodes in which all the gradations which employ this phenom- 
enology are represented, [there can no longer exist any doubts regarding the] 
objectivity of the phenomenon itself; in the sense that the “dreamlike” and 
“hallucinatory” hypotheses must be excluded and they are also the only ones 
which are opposed to the phenomena. (Bozzano, 1934:124) 

If, for Bozzano, the phenomena of bilocation represented the passage from 
animism to spiritism, the phenomena of transcendental music dealt with in the 
monograph Musica Trascendentale ( Transcendental Music) (Bozzano, 1982) 
were instead of clear spiritual genesis. In this monograph, he subdivided the 
phenomena into six classes, even if, dealing with animistic phenomena, he 
dedicated less space to the first two (musical mediumship and transcendental 
music with telepathic extemalization). The classes of transcendental music of 
haunting origin, of music perceived without a relationship to events dealing 
with death, music at the deathbed, and music which is manifested after an event 
dealing with death would instead be, cumulatively taken, reliable testimony of 
spiritual intervention. In fact, from the moment that musical phenomenology was 
often externalized together with apparitions of the dead person at the deathbed, 
in such a way as to prove the spiritual identification of a dear deceased person 
who comes to assist the dying person, because of the numerous cases in which 

Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher 


music was heard by everyone 
present and, sometimes, by all of 
them except the dying person, and 
as a result of the cases in which 
the music was heard on fixed 
dates after the death of someone, 

Bozzano was certain that, thanks 
to his demonstrative process, the 
hallucinatory and psychometric 
explanations as well as suggestion 
and telepathy among the living 
could be discarded in favor of 
the spiritual explanation of the 
phenomenon. Also in the case of 
transcendental music, the gradual 
exposition of the phenomenology 
permitted Bozzano to exclude the 
antagonistic hypotheses step by 
step and to guide the reader, by means of the convergence of the proofs, to 
understand how “the numerous branches of metaphysics (. . .) all converge as a 
center toward the experimental demonstration of the existence and survival of 
the human spirit” (Bozzano, 1982:156-157). 

Bozzano, therefore, understood science as a process of researching 
truth, carried out rigorously starting from the facts, and capable of rationally 
demonstrating conclusions using comparative analysis and the convergence 
of proofs. It is understood that, on the basis of this assumption, metapsichica 
also, at least as he saw it, was to all effects a science, and that Bozzano the 
spiritualist and Bozzano the psychical researcher were one and the same. 

In 1899, in Genoa, Bozzano and the writer Luigi Arnaldo Vassallo 
(1852—1906) founded the Circolo Scientifico Minerva (Minerva Science 
Club), which had as its aim the scientific study of mediumistic phenomena 
and the promotion of debates and publications regarding them (Minerva, 
1899). Many people of the Genoese middle class joined, including without 
a doubt Francesco Porro (1861-1937) the astronomer and Enrico Morselli 
(1852-1929), the celebrated psychiatrist who, for his honest and impartial 
attitude regarding research, compared this Club to a small SPR (Morselli. 
1908:vol. I, 174). The principal activity of this Club in 1901-1902 was to 
study the medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918), which led to various 
publications by its members (the most important were Bozzano, 1903, 1904. 
Morselli, 1908, Vassallo, 1992). In 1904, the Club was dissolved as a result of 
disagreement among the members. 

Ernesto Bozzano, at about forty years old. 


Luca Gasperini 

Since, from 1890 on, Bozzano followed the developments of his discipline 
with attention (he dedicated notable energy to constant reading, writing, 
analysis, and critiques of numerous publications), many of his writings took 
the form of critical reviews of his colleagues’ texts, many of whom were also 
friends, thus generating small disputes, always carried out with logical strictness 
and politeness. Their common characteristic was that of wanting to nip in the 
bud the theories contrary to the hypothesis of human survival. Among the most 
relevant debates, we recall that which took place with Morselli and went on 
from 1899 to 1917; since Morselli denied the spiritual hypothesis, Bozzano 
opposed Morselli regarding the phenomena of the etheric body, of apport, of 
identification of spiritual personalities and reincarnation, challenging him many 
times to deny that, from these facts, the existence of a soul surviving a body 
and the intervention of the deceased was able to be deduced (Gasperini, 2010). 
Nobel Prize winner and psychical researcher Charles Richet (1850-1935), 
who, by upholding the hypothesis of the crypiesihesie (cryptesthesia), a faculty 
of superior cognition but at the human level, was not, according to Bozzano, 
able to explain many undoubtedly spiritual facts, such as the phenomena of 
telekinesis at the deathbed, those of haunting, those of transcendental music 
or the cases of identification of deceased people unknown to the medium and 
those present at the seances (Bozzano, 1922a, 1922b, 1922c. Richet, 1922a, 
1922b, 1922c) 3 . There was also biologist and psychical researcher William 
Mackenzie (1877-1970), advocate of the polypsychical hypothesis used to 
explain the mediumistic personalities without resorting to spiritualism; for 
Bozzano, the fact that, notwithstanding the constant changing of participants 
at the seances, the mediumistic personalities maintained their own identity was 
more than sufficient to hold that the opposing thesis was destroyed (Bozzano, 
1923a, 1923b, Mackenzie, 1923a, 1923b). And psychical researcher Rene 
Sudre (1880-1968) explained the phenomena of intelligent mediumship with 
the prosopopese-metagnomie, that is attributing them to the latent subconscious 
personality in the mind of the medium, capable of producing anomalous facts. 
Elaborating on the theories of Richet, Bozzano disproved the hypothesis of 
the prosopopese using the same reasoning advanced against cryptesthesie 
(Bozzano, 1926, Sudre, 1926). 

The majority of the debates were carried out in the journal Luce e 
Ombra ( Lo ), which from 1900 on became the principal publication of Italian 
spiritualism (Alvarado, Biondi, & Kramer, 2006). From 1906 to 1939 when Lo 
was made to close by the fascist regime, Bozzano was the principal contributor 
to the journal with his contribution of almost 4,000 pages, thanks to which 
he acquired considerable notoriety, above all abroad; starting in 1920, he also 
regularly published articles in the most important English, French, American, 
and South American spiritualistic and psychical journals. In Italy, he published 

Ernesto Rozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher 


approximately 90 volumes that, starting from 1920, were translated into nine 
different languages, such as English, French, German, and Turkish (Alvarado, 
1986, De Boni, 1941, Ravaldini, 2000) and reviewed critically in the most 
important psychical and spiritualistic journals. Although agreeing that Bozzano 
was one of the greatest scholars in the field of psychical research, the reviewers 
often criticized his methodology, e.g., Troubridge (1919) accused him of 
accepting too quickly the reality of the phenomenon whose existence he had 
to demonstrate; Wilson (1933) repeated the same argument, while Saltmarsh 
(1938) judged his reasoning with regard to the biological evolution and the 
independence of the spirit from the body to be completely erroneous. Collins 
(1939) criticized him for assuming as proven some facts that could be defined as 
arbitrary, and, in Nature, the spiritistic hypothesis of Bozzano was defined to be 
of scarce interest for the skeptics but merited in-depth study for the enthusiasts 
of psychical studies (Review of Discarnate Influence in Human Life, 1938). 
In France. Quartier (1927a, 1927b) described Bozzano as a sage of the pre- 
scientific era because of his non-use of the experimental method, and even 
Count Cesar Baudi de Vesme (1862-1938) criticized his esteemed colleague, 
so certain of the reality of psychical phenomena and the explanatory value of 
the spiritistic hypothesis that he never doubted it, for omitting, among other 
things, in an unfair manner, topics that were contrary (de Vesme, 1934, 1936). 

From 1927 to 1929, Bozzano was called on to cover the role of expert in 
noted mediumistic experiences, such as the seances of Millesimo; these were 
a series of seances held in the ancient castle of Millesimo, a picturesque town 
not far from Savona (Italy), and presided over by Marquis Carlo Centurione 
Scotto ( 1 862-1937), Senator and medium, during which numerous direct voice 
and apport phenomena were supposedly verified, culminating in the presumed 
dematerialization and successive materialization of the Marquis himself, 
occurring on July 29, 1928 (Ferraro. 1989). Thanks to accounts published in Lo 
by Bozzano (Bozzano, 1927b, 1927c, 1928a, 1928b, 1928c. 1928d), which were 
then collected into one volume (Bozzano, 1929b) and disseminated abroad also 
thanks to his collaborators (e.g., Bozzano, 1928e, 1929d, 1929e, 1930e, Hack, 
1930), the seances obtained vast visibility, throwing the international research 
community into turmoil. Officially, he upheld the veracity of the happenings 
and the unquestionable intervention of the disembodied entities, 4 drawing upon 
himself first the criticism of psychical researcher Rudolph Lambert ( 1 866— 

1 964) (Bozzano, 1929a, 1929c, 1930b, I930d, Lambert, 1929, 1930) and then 
that of the exponent of the SPR, Theodore Besterman (1904- 1976) (Besterman, 
1930). The answer to the English scholar was given for him by an indignant Sir 
Arthur Conan Doyle (1 859-1930), who dismayed by the attacks that his Italian 
friend was undergoing resigned from his role as honorary member of the SPR 
(Doyle, 1930), taking with him 77 members (Mauskopf & McVaugh, 1980:28). 


Luca Gasperini 

The seances at Millesimo, together with those with Palladino at the Circolo 
Scientifico Minerva about thirty years earlier (Bozzano, 1903), were the only 
two experiments worth noting in the course of his research, which was otherwise 
carried out almost exclusively in written analyses of books and articles. Space 
does not permit the chronicling of the eloquent and detailed accounts of the 
seances that Bozzano published; however, according to those who have written 
about it, it seems that the scholar went to the seances, on both occasions, 
already profoundly convinced of the reality of the facts to which he would have 
attested, and of the authenticity of the mediums. This can be deduced by his 
lack of doubts and from his critical tone against the skeptics (e.g., Bozzano, 
1903:362-363) as well as from the clearly demonstrative presentation of the 
events narrated, not simple events to explain to readers and to assess critically, 
but compelling results of experimentation demonstrating the intervention 
of disincamate intelligence. Our affirmation is also supported by the weight 
Bozzano gave to the evidence of the facts and, in particular, to psychological 
control: To whoever contested the lack of verification of the mediums at the 
seances of Millesimo, he responded that their psychological profile, namely 
being aristocrats, cultured, and rich, meant therefore automatically that they 
were not interested in committing fraud, as well as the clear evidence for 
paranormal phenomenology could not but render clearly truthful all his 
accounts and exempt him from subjecting the mediums to humiliating anti- 
fraud verification (e.g., Bozzano, 1929a). Let us be clear, we do not want to 
insinuate anything nefarious regarding the Genoese psychical researcher and 
his honesty, but simply to demonstrate how his behavior could seem suspect, or 
at least naive, to many of his contemporaries. 

Thanks to the wide dissemination of his writings, Bozzano managed to 
begin a correspondence and friendship not only with Conan Doyle but also 
with many other psychical researchers, scientists, and philosophers of that era, 
such as William Crookes (1832-1919), Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900), Oliver 
Lodge (1851-1940), Camille Flammarion (1842-1925), and James Hyslop 
(1854-1920), with the Italian philosopher and psychologist Angelo Brofferio 
(1846-1894), with Italian psychiatrists Enrico Morselli and Cesare Lombroso 
(1835-1909), and also with many others (Letter from Genoa, 6 October 1942, 
unpublished, in Bozzano & De Boni, 1 930—1943). But he also received a lot of 
letters from non-scholars who were greatly consoled by him and the doctrines 
he proposed. Unfortunately, almost all his correspondence has been lost 
(Ravaldini, 1993a:73-76). 

But, as the Gospel says: nemo propheia in patria [never a prophet in his 
own country]. In fact, in Italy, the works of Bozzano were not very well-known 
outside the circle of readers of Lo or its staff; of these, positive comments on 
his works came, other than from De Boni (e.g., De Boni, 1946, 1947), from 

Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher 


two important Italian psychical researchers, Emilio Servadio (1904-1995), who 
extolled the argumentative force of Bozzano (Servadio 1931, 1934), and from 
Antonio Bruers (1880-1954), who was certainly more cautious regarding the 
Genoese scholar in accepting the evidence of some alleged spiritualistic facts 
(Bruers, 1929, 1930). The situation greatly improved when De Boni made an 
agreement with the publisher L’Albero of Verona (Italy) and began publishing 
the opera omnia of Bozzano 5 ; the first volume Popoli Primitivi e Manifestazioni 
Supernormal i ( Primitive Cultures and Supernormal Manifestations) in 1941 
(Bozzano, 1941) 6 was a big success and attracted the attention of a goodly 
number of Italian intellectuals, above all anthropologists and religious and 
oriental historians such as Giuseppe Tucci (1894-1984), Raffaele Pettazzoni 
(1883-1959), and Ernesto de Martino (1908-1965), who critiqued it in 
newpapers and specialized journals (e.g., de Martino, 1941, Gasperini, 2011) 
and began a brief correspondence with Bozzano (unpublished correspondence). 
Outside of Italy, an enthusiastic reader of Popoli Primitivi was Carl Gustav 
Jung (1875-1961) (De Boni, 1949). 

Bozzano died on June 24, 1943, from circulatory complications, and his 
death was mentioned in Italian and French spiritualistic and psychical journals 
(De Boni, 1947, Necrologie, 1946, Weissenbach, 1949). 

Outline of the Metapsychical Philosophy 

Between 1922 and 1943, Bozzano produced and updated his most important 
monographs which, together with his articles, permitted the reconstruction 
of the central points of his thinking and the ordering of them into a scheme, 
something which he had never formally done. 7 As lannuzzo (1982) also noted, 
that which seemed to emerge when studying Bozzano’s works, was the attempt 
that he made, probably based on the body of Spencerian philosophy, to create a 
“metapsychical philosophy” capable of interpreting and coherently connecting 
paranormal phenomena, above all considering the demonstration of human 
survival, the topic which interested him primarily, but also secondarily deriving 
some notions of metaphysical and cosmological order of the general guiding 
hypotheses with which to return and compare the psychic phenomena in order 
to justify and organize them in a wider perspective, namely that of the spiritual 
evolution of the universe (Cugnaschi, 2002). Indeed, the latter subject rarely 
emerges from his writings and certainly does not distinguish itself for originality 
from a conceptual point of view, but it is equally an unpublished mixture of 
Spencerian philosophical tenets and paranormal phenomena assumed to be 
empirical data. 

At the root of his metapsychical philosophy, Bozzano posed his “Spiritistic 
hypothesis” which was not immediately synonomous with spiritualism, but 
rather a criterium ofthe interpretation of paranormal phenomena which only later 


Luca Gasperini 

on pointed to the veracity of spiritualism. With this hypothesis, he maintained 
that paranormal, physical, and intellectual phenomena were products and 
proof of the existence of a spirit as well as an active and immaterial principle 
independent of the body, and which due to these characteristics cannot help but 
survive them inasmuch as the spirit is incarnate by life to certain phenomena 
(telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, etc.) which Bozzano called “Animistic” 
(or psychobiodynamic) and since the spirit is disembodied from life in the 
other categories of phenomena (communication with the dead, apparitions 
at the deathbed, transcendental music, etc.) which he called “Spiritistic” (or 
transcendental). As Bozzano wrote in a work expressly dedicated to this subject, 

supernormal phenomena (. . .) are the effects of a single cause and it is the 
human spirit which, when it is manifested fleetingly during the incarnate ex- 
istence, determines Animistic phenomena, and when manifested under con- 
ditions of disembodiment in the world of the living it determines Spiritistic 
phenomena. (Bozzano. 1967a:295)* 

All in all, the spiritic hypothesis is quite simple; the vast amount of the 
writings and subjects that he produced to support it is, if anything, magnificent 
and is Bozzano’s real contribution to psychical research. Above all, the 
discourse on the autonomy of “subconscious supernormal faculties,” namely 
the faculties of the incarnate spirit which is positioned in the subconscious, 
is, to all effects, the reservoir for psychic phenomena. For example, the fact 
that telepathy and clairvoyance emerged on rare occasions of severe physical 
and psychical weakening, as the mediums and people in the state of mesmeric 
sleep demonstrated, for Bozzano meant that they were completely useless in 
this life since the potential senses of the incarnate spirit would become real 
only when this spirit would have passed through the crisis of death (Bozzano, 
1 899, 1 924d). For Bozzano, another strong proof in favor of the autonomy of 
the bodily spirit was the evident independence of supernormal faculties from 
the laws of natural selection, based on their uselessness in the struggle for 
life (Bozzano, 1923c). Bozzano resolved the mind-body problem utilizing 
the concept of the etheric body which envelops the incarnate spirit linking it 
to the body but is also capable of breaking off, bringing with it the individual 
consciousness and the integral subconscious memory contained in the etheric 
brain, the true seat of thinking for which the somatic brain only serves as an 
interpreter of physical sensations (Bozzano, 1930c, 1 93 1 ). 9 

From the preceding considerations, together with the conviction that the 
spirit is also present in animals, with them having the same subconscious 
faculties as man (Bozzano, 1975), and the belief in the faculty of thought and 
willingness to mould the subject which, according to Bozzano, appeared to 
emerge from the phenomena of ideoplasty and ectoplasmy (Bozzano, 1967b, 

Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher 


1967c), Bozzano deduced a cosmological theory reconstructable from some 
writings that went beyond pure psychical research. In summary, he believed 
that the universe was in continuous evolution and that the true evolutive 
motor was the spirit which had to pass through all the inferior animal forms 
until reaching man in order to finally reach a perfect state of existence in the 
spiritual sphere (Bozzano, 1967b); the evolution of the individual spirits falls 
within the end of the evolution of the great universal spirit, God or Absolute 
or Unknowable, which is both intelligence tinged with material reality and 
the material itself, constructed and supported, thanks to its most fundamental 
material expressions: Force, Motion, Energy, and Ether (Bozzano, 1924b). For 
Bozzano, this form of idealistic and evolutionist pantheism was not only, as was 
said, a working hypothesis used as a theoretical framework but also, together 
with all that happened after the birth of spiritualism, a new form of rational 
religious revelation not antagonistic to Christian thinking (Bozzano, 1927a). 

Although implied in all his writings, the theme of survival after bodily 
death is the specific object of the controversial monograph La Crisi della Morte 
(The Crisis of Death) in which Bozzano attempted to demonstrate human 
survival, speaking about the environment and the conditions of spiritual life 
using transcendental communications, namely all that copious information 
received directly from the dead by direct writing or mediumistic dictation right 
from the beginning of the spiritualistic movement (Bozzano, 1 998b). Bozzano 
believed that communication is an instrument indispensible for proving the 
reality of disembodied entities since these can furnish information regarding 
their own identity and, vice versa, information regarding their identity proves 
that communication was taking place with a dead person. We are dealing with 
very slippery ground and even Bozzano (1996) understood this; exactly for 
this reason, he stated a list of proofs in favor of the spiritualistic hypothesis 
he held to be unattackable by countertheories: the existence of subconscious 
supernormal faculties free of biological evolution, time, and space; bilocation; 
apparition of the dead at the deathbed; premonitions of accidental death; cross- 
correspondence between mediumistic communications received by mediums 
who are not together and cannot communicate; apparitions of the dead. 

Implicitly, this list was an invitation to globally consider paranormal 
phenomena since only globally would they have furnished an incontestable 
demonstration of the spiritualistic hypothesis. Bozzano was loyal to his 
own intention since, with his monographs, he collected all paranormal 
phenomenology, thus constructing the empiric base and the construction 
of indirect proof (psychic phenomena) and direct proof (spiritualistic 
phenomena) he required. For example, among the most important monographs 
dedicated to psychic phenomena, we find the one dealing with the phenomena 
of bilocation (Bozzano, 1934), 10 that dealing with clairvoyance (Bozzano, 


Luca Gasperini 

1947a), that dealing with telepathy (Bozzano, 1946a), and the triptych 
dealing with premonition in which he also espoused his solution to the ancient 
determinism-free will dilemma (Bozzano, 1947b, 1947c, 1948a). Regarding 
the spiritualistic phenomena, he dealt with telekinesis phenomena in relation 
to the crisis of death which he attributed to the participation of the dead 
(Bozzano, 1948b)," experiences of an auditory nature at the deathbed as well 
as cases of trancendental music (Bozzano, 1 982), the apparition of the dead at 
the deathbed (Bozzano, 1947b), haunting (Bozzano, 1936), and also polyglot 
mediumistic phenomena (Bozzano, 1946b). At the end of each monograph, 
he stated with certainty that had reached logical and necessary conclusions 
regarding the existence of supernormal faculties independent of the strict 
dictates of time, space, and natural selection with regard to the existence of 
disembodied spirits capable of interfering in the daily events of the living. 

The thirst for proof brought Bozzano to also devote himself to phenomena 
which took place at other times and places; he wrote to reaffirm the veracity 
of the events of some precursors of the spiritualistic movement (Bozzano, 
1957a, 1957b, 2001), to demonstrate the hand of the spirits in the composition 
of the supposed works dictated psychographically or produced by direct 
writing (Bozzano, 1998a), and he concluded with the grandiose attempt of 
complete recognition of the paranormal on the part of primitive cultures 
(Bozzano, 1941). 


Bozzano was deeply convinced of his Spiritistic hypothesis and therefore 
spent 50 years of his life collecting his immense paranormal record of cases in 
order to demonstrate them scientifically, so that no one could any longer voice 
doubts about them. He built a solid reputation as a psychical researcher, but 
it is evident that the image which has survived is that of a spiritualist (Fodor, 
1933:36). If we keep this in mind, together with the fact that, since the 1930s, 
parapsychology has moved on different tracks from those of Bozzano and 
has, above all, become a discipline conducted in the English language (e.g., 
Mauskopf & McVaugh, 1980), and that in Italy this area of study is languishing, 
we can form a rough idea of why the conclusions of Bozzano have not recently 
been taken into consideration. 

In effect, the methods of Bozzano, which lannuzzo (1983a) defined as 
observational and naturalistic and which we can also call bibliographic, must 
have seemed rather simplistic to the parapsychologists of the experimental 
school. In fact, he not only made exclusive use of qualitative sources but 
refused to adopt the experimental method, believing that it was not worthwhile 
(Ravaldini, 1993b: 129), and, as was contested so many times (e.g., Di Porto, 
no year, Inardi & lannuzzo, 1981), by taking the facts reported in the literature 

Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher 


as immediately valid, he ended up assuming an uncritical attitude toward his 
own sources. 

Nevertheless, from a historical point of view, he symbolically epitomized 
the interest of his time and place for spiritualism and psychical phenomena, 
and to study him permits, if nothing else, a more in-depth reconstruction of 
the Italian situation, in general suffering from a historiographic void on this 
subject. From a more straightforward parapsychological point of view, some 
attempts have been made to recover the case records and conclusions set forth 
by Bozzano in his monographs, which could still be rich in suggestions and 
ideas for research (e.g., Alvarado, 2005, 2008, Biondi, 2010). 


1 The Dizionario Biografico clegli Italiani (acronym: DBI) is a work of highly respected 
scientific value edited by the Institute of the Italian Encyclopedia, begun in 1925 
and still not completed; its aim is to gather approximately 40,000 biographies having 
rich bibliographies and edited by scholars, of as many illustrious Italians. Paper 
publication has been interrupted, and it is now possible to consult it online at http:// 

2 His collection of letters is conserved at the Bozzano-De Boni Library Foundation in 
Bologna (Italy) and includes 450 letters, of which 275 are unpublished. Those from 
1928 to 1936 have been published(De Boni. 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977. 1978), and while 
those from 1930 to 1936 have been published, with, however, some letters missing, 
the bulk of the unpublished correspondence is from 1937 to 1943. In addition to the 
published writings of Bozzano. approximately 150 binders of additional unpublished 
material are conserved at the Foundation among which much other correspondence 
and various collections of notes, citations, drafts of articles, and monographs never 
published and even manuscripts of some of his most important publications are found. 
The Foundation, which also publishes the journal Luce e Ombra and is one of the 
most important Italian libraries of the history of spiritualism and psychical research, 
is the only association which is involved in keeping the memory of Bozzano alive. For 
further information, see 

3 Richet and Bozzano shared a professional friendship as is seen by their letters 
which have been conserved. Thanks to these letters, we know that the French 
scholar frequently sent his own publications dedicated to Bozzano, and many 
times he proposed publishing a collection of all Bozzano’s works at his own 
expense: furthermore, initially antispiritualistic. Richet attributed his attraction to 
the spiritualistic hypothesis to reading Bozzano’s works. See Bozzano (1924a) and 
unpublished letters: Richet-Bozzano. Paris, 14 May 1935, Paris, 31 May 1935. Paris, 
28 June 1935. 

4 Utilizing the unpublished material of the Bozzano-De Boni collection of letters, 
Biondi (2009) strongly questioned the honesty of Bozzano and De Boni regarding 
the events at Millesimo. quoting, in particular, their involvement in keeping secret the 
Centurione Scotto fraud in the seance on July 29, 1928. and that of George Valiantine 
in successive seances with the group of Millesimo. whose accounts have never been 


Luca Gasperini 

5 Although De Boni (1941), with regard to the complete edition of Bozzano’s writings, 
indicated 1 5,000 pages in more than 50 volumes, in the end he chose 1 7 writings, 
those more theoretically important which had been updated with new material by 
Bozzano between 1939 and 1943 (De Boni. 1946). Until the 1970s, De Boni did his 
best to enable everybody to see the light, relying on various Italian publishing houses, 
also including Edilrice Luce e Ombra which was refounded by him in 1967. 

6 The majority of Bozzano’s books are monographs, specific studies on a category 
of metapsychical phenomena, but Popoli Primitivi is one of the few writings to 
veer away from his usual theme; with this, he attempted to shed light on the entire 
paranormal phenomena of the cultures which the anthropology of that era defined as 
primitive, principally African peoples, but also including Indians. Aborigines, and 
Maori, in order to find the occidental case records (generated not by mediums but by 
yogin, shamans, and medicine men) and the solution to the question of the origin of 
religions (the observation of spiritualistic facts). 

7 The only vaguely systematic work, written in 1938 (the definitive and quite different 
edition was published in 1967). and for this reason definable as the clear synthesis of 
his 50 years of work, is Animismo o Spirilismo? Quale dei Due Spiega il Complesso 
dei Fatti? (Bozzano, 1967a). The 1938 work was also translated into English as 
Discarnate Influence in Human Life (Bozzano, 1938b). 

* For the formulation of this hypothesis, Bozzano was greatly inspired by the work of 
Aksakof ( 1 890) which he read in French in 1895 (Aksakof, 1895). There, in fact, we 
find (1 consulted the Italian translation: Aksakof, 1912) the complete formulation of 
many of the points of Bozzano’s metapsychical philosophy, such as the distinction 
between animistic and spiritistic phenomena, the theory according to which animistic 
phenomena reside in the subconscious and are proof of the existence of an immortal 
spirit free of the body, and also the importance of spiritualistic communication with 
cases of identification of the deceased as the main proof in favor of survival. 

9 For a more in-depth study of Bozzano (1931), also in relation to the most recent 
reports of a life review in parapsychology events, see Biondi, 2010. 

10 In the category of the phenomena of bilocation. Bozzano inserted a class of facts 
corresponding to today’s out-of-body experiences, which, although not being 
classified as such and explanations of which resorted to hypotheses of the ethereal 
body and survival, had been studied for a long time. For a close examination of this 
history which also deals with Bozzano from the nineteenth century until the 1980s, 
see Alvarado, 1989. For a specific study of Bozzano and the phenomena of bilocation, 
see Alvarado, 2005. 

11 For a historical summary of these and other phenomena linked to near-death 
experiences, see Alvarado, 2006. For a specific study of this monograph of Bozzano, 
see Alvarado, 2008. 


I wish to thank Carlos Alvarado for his suggestions. 

Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher 



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Luca Gasperini 

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Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher 


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